Letter to the Editors

by Gloria Meza

This memory keeps replaying in my head, and when it does, I feel this sense of pain, fear and as if I’m all alone. After my brother finished brutally beating me, I ran into my restroom, locked the door and began to cry. As I cried, I watched the drops of blood run from my nose and fall onto my knees that were so far pushed into my chest, I could feel the vibration of my heart pounding on them. I was scared out of my mind, all I wanted was to be safe and warm. With my mother and sister Brenda allowing the abuse to go on, and with my other two sisters (Stella and Thalia) being in federal prison, I felt trapped and alone. This unbearable pain I felt all my childhood is indescribable. When I reported the abuse the first time and was questioned by the police, I felt I wasn’t being heard, taken seriously and as if they didn’t believe me. When child services intervened, I hoped and prayed to be taken away from these people I feel damned to call my family. The only thing done was kick him out and threaten my mother to take me from her custody if she were to let him live with us again. For some that may sound fair, but it really wasn’t. How could I live with people that put me in danger? I should have been put in another home away from my mother and Brenda, I’m safer with strangers than with these people; I know my mother, she’ll put him over me no matter the situation, I know for a fact my mother was going to let him in again. Sadly, the social worker didn’t see it that way. As I was forced to stay with my mother, where I was being resented, I constantly feared the thought of my mother letting him in. Every sound, even the slightest touch on my shoulder would startled me. Nightmares and flashbacks began to happen. My brother was once a construction worker and an electrician, and when there was road work being done among the streets, the workers who wore yellow vests made me feel immediately ill as if I was in danger again because my mind was convinced it was my brother. I began seeking therapy and was diagnosed with PTSD. I was on a long road to recovery. As I began taking medication, my everyday nightmares lessened to 5 days a week, a big deal to me. Even though I was still having flashbacks, having a good night’s sleep 2 days out of the week was progress which wasn’t easy. I was proud of the progress I was making, and thanks to my incredible therapist, psychologist and UCLA medical students that have helped me progress. All that time, effort and progress I was making was soon thrown away because my mother had let him back in again. I reported it for the second time and stayed with my cousin in the meantime, I was certain they would finally take me away, having that in the back of my mind as I reported it was comforting. I told myself “I don’t ever have to see my mother again” which also brought a sense of relief. Well it was a big “sike, ha you thought,” all they did was – again kick him out and threaten my mother (FOR THE SECOND TIME) if she were to let him in they’ll take me away. I refused to go back, they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. They should have taken me away from my mother for child endangerment, but they didn’t. I put my foot down, enough was enough, I demanded my social worker to get me out of there to which he replied, “let me talk to my supervisor.” I didn’t hear back from my social worker after that, even though I was constantly leaving him voicemails. Meanwhile I remained with my cousin, only to find that when my mother was forced to kick my brother out, he stayed with a friend that was one house down the street I was staying. I couldn’t get away from my abuser, everywhere I turned he was there. I had to decide between, living in a house away from him or staying with my mom knowing she’ll let him back in again. I was trapped. I was forced to move back with my mother where at least it would buy me some time before I got beat again. I began getting flashbacks or, as I call them “episodes,” along with nightmares. This time the pain felt different, it was changing me into a cruel person towards men. I lost my faith, for many reasons but mainly because I didn’t want to praise a man, as well as I feared men, I felt like every man that entered my life was going to leave me or beat me. I remember an incident: I had seen a homeless man laying down on the street asking for money, when he asked me for money I replied “ no” something I don’t normally do because I knew the struggle of being homeless, I knew how it felt to ask for money, but I said no because in my head I immediately thought “you probably don’t deserve it because you just came out of jail for beating a woman.” I knew that was wrong, and I know it’s a horrible way to live life, assuming every man beats women, but the thing is, having that mentality makes me feel safe. It’s hard to explain but think of it like this: parents always tell their children to not talk to strangers that the “stranger danger method” prevents you from running into “bad” strangers. Now, don’t get the sense that I completely despise what I went through because I don’t, it’s bad, but it has also allowed me to have a strong desire to help woman that’ve been abused like me. For example, it led me into the arms of law, more specifically I want to be a lawyer and eventually change laws that make woman feel defeated under the justice system. For instance, when woman have been physically abused, sexually abused and even raped and report it they must face their abuser in court. I also want to fix the department of child services as well as the foster system, which I mainly must thank my social worker for that, for never returning my calls and leaving me out to dry. Surely all these changes I want to make lead me to participate in Teen Court, take two ELAC classes (psychology and communication studies) as well as volunteer in women and children homeless shelters. I’ve met some incredibly strong woman at the shelters I volunteer in whom I exchange my story with along as them sharing theirs, they repeatedly mention to me to not allow my abuser to get the best of me and to live my best life, and the fact that my voice wasn’t heard should make me work harder to make sure the next woman is. I’ll be graduating soon and turning 18 in November which is the light at the end of the tunnel for me because legally I won’t be forced to live with my mother. I want to deeply thank Jessica Ramirez for being able to express my story in the best possible way along with the editors, Ms. Garcia, who allowed me to share my story and also for being a teacher who truly cares about her students, my counselor Mrs. Lopez for guiding me, my sister Stella and Thalia for risking their futures so I can have a roof over my head and everyone who took the time to read my story. I’ve been feeling resentment from my mother and Brenda for so long and to finally hear people tell me they support me and stand with me truly means the world to me. 

#ThisIsNotConsent

by Nikki Nuno

A rape case in Cork, Southwest Ireland took an unexpected turn when the defendant was found not guilty of raping the victim who happened to be wearing a thong. The defendant’s lawyer argued against the victim in consideration of her thong. The accused man’s lawyer, senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell, stated “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” The defendant was acquitted by a jury of 8 men and 4 women, most of which felt the 17-year-old had consented to having sex in an alley with a 27-year-old man whom was a stranger to her. This controversial court decision has sparked an enormous outrage in Ireland’s republic. In Dublin, women have hung underwear on clotheslines along sidewalks. In Cork, protestors laid lingerie on the steps of the courthouse. Many people have sided with the young girl’s claim of rape, but why did the judicial branch have a different say? Why does a female’s choice of clothing decide whether her claim of rape is truthful or not? The Rape Crisis Network estimated that only 10% of rapes are ever reported, while only 1 in 40 cases receive an appropriate punishment. Cases like this are much more common than the public believes; an annual awareness day passes time and time again while the reason behind it usually goes unknown, causing cases like this to become a cycle in our judicial system. This day is known as Denim Day, Wednesday, April 24th, 2019, observed for sexual harassment awareness. In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court decision enraged women from the Italian Parliament, to the California Senate and Assembly, leading to the national event. An 18-year-old female was picked up for her first lesson with her 45-year-old driving instructor, taking her to a secluded area for instruction. He pulled her out of the car, wrestled one leg out of her jeans, and forcefully raped her, threatening her life if she told anyone. Once she returned home, she told her parents who supported her decision to take matters to court. He was promptly arrested and prosecuted, charged guilty of rape. However, he later appealed the case, centering the argument on “the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex”. The case went on to the Supreme Court, and within days, the perpetrator was released and the case was overturned. This case will forever be a reminder that it takes more than just speaking up to get the results wanted, especially when the judicial system is not in your favor, you need the courage to endure the possible counter attacks that await your accusations.
Through popular music, social media influencers and an under-educated adolescence that know no better than to follow sex stereotypes they see daily, the 21st century has been marked with rape culture. We need to stop waiting for things to change, silence needs to speak and violence needs to surrender. Each time you say or post a sexually controversial topic you open the door for thousands to think harassing behavior “isn’t a big deal”. This month you have the option to make a social statement and open a topic people don’t like to talk about with just a pair of jeans. Why not take up the opportunity?
Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men in America experience some form of unwanted sexual contact, don’t accept these statistics! Wear a pair of jeans on April 24th and open up the conversation of rape for people who want to ignore it and those who wish they were heard.

Letter to the Editors

February 15, 2019
Victoria Barkley
UTLA Chapter Chair and Art Teacher, SGHS

To the Editor:
First, as a teacher, I love when the Rambler addresses issues people think teens would never find interesting. The teachers’ strike affected students most of all, so it’s not surprising that you, our student journalists, would include coverage in the Rambler.
Congratulations, also, on the cover. That’s a strong photograph of our teachers in front of LA City Hall! I love the quirkiness of Mr. Wilkens full-throttle, juxtaposed with Mr. Sacramento’s La Raza power fist, which blocks Mr. Gallardo’s smile. It shows our humor and strength.
Inside, I appreciate the accuracy of your reporting on the matters we went on strike to address. It was so much more than a 6% raise, and no one seemed to understand that before we took to the streets. Sufficient nurses, counselors, and librarians, more green spaces, and ending random searches of students were some of the real issues for us. We cannot teach, and you cannot learn effectively, when learning conditions are bleak and dilapidated, and staff are too overworked to make any difference for
you.
I also enjoyed your interviews with Mr. Martinez and Carlos Ramirez. Both had good points about the conditions that we are working to address. I personally believe that the relationship between Labor and Capital has been upside down for the past 40 years, and that the teachers’ strikes around the country are a sign that we are turning this around to benefit all Americans.
Thank you for covering our struggle.
Vicki Barkley

Episode V: The Teachers Strike Back

by Jesse Mendoza

“Tell me what democracy looks like!” Ms. Barkley yelled.

“This is what democracy looks like!” triumphantly answered the crowd.

On the morning of February 22, both South Gate teachers and students joined together at the front of the school to support show support for those teachers striking in Oakland – which lasted from February 21 to March 1 – for the same reason we did in Los Angeles: better conditions for both teachers and students. On this morning, Alex Caputo-Pearl (president of UTLA), Jackie Goldberg (former member of the California State Assembly), and Randi Weingarten (former president of the United Federation of Teachers) spoke at South Gate High School, announcing their stance with Oakland, the state of West Virginia, and all other area school districts that want to secure the appropriate resources needed to teach the students of America. South Gate’s very own Ms. Barkley, Ms. Solorio, and student Carlos Ramirez had words to say about the strikes, sharing their personal beliefs and stories. “The Oakland strike is our strike!” Alex proudly exclaimed, but what exactly is the continuing issue plaguing the American education system?

For starters, the rising number of charter schools absorbing resources proves to be an issue in improving public education. Charter schools are educational institutions that are independent from a traditional state school district and receive government funds based on enrollment numbers. While there is debate on whether students preform better in charter schools, the truth is that they are more fueled on money than public schools are. Charter schools are seen as “cash cows” to many politicians and entrepreneurs, since there are many students on waiting on lists to enroll and the state is a guarantee payee for charter schools. The fact that they are independent institutions indicates a privatization of education for profit. This focus on money leads to many charter schools to deny the acceptance of special needs and English second language students and have less passion for academic exploration. Furthermore, the increase in money-hungry charter schools are sapping government resources that could go to public schools, and the increase in numbers are causing existing public schools to shut down. One of the goals of UTLA is to introduce a stricter charter cap to secure resources meant for public schools.

There is also the issue with the lack of school resources thought as needed. In the U.S., there is on average one school psychologist for every 1,381 students and one counselor for every 482 students. Only 39% of private and public schools have full-time nurses available for students. Here in South Gate, there are two school psychologists that work part time, one nurse, one college counselor, and classes with more over 40 students. While LAUSD experienced a strike recently due to these issues, it is a nationwide problem that many schools face. Jackie Goldberg and many more believe that “students are the future,” which is why they find it important to provide students with the best resources to succeed in school.

With rampant issues relating to funding, another problem educators in California indicate is the lack of taxes on the rich. California has the fifth largest economy, worldwide, with a gross state product of $2.747 trillion. California is the state with the most billionaire residents (124), along with many other wealthy individuals. However, these few privileged aren’t contributing to taxes as much as they could be. Currently, the state ranked 41st in education conditions compared to the other states, 39th in school finance, and 30th in achievement. Taxes help fund institutions like public schools, which is why teachers are perplexed how there is a lack of public-school funding in the wealthiest state in the country.

The LAUSD strike may be over, but the fight to secure the education U.S. students deserve is far from over.

“This is What Democracy Looks Like!”

by Jennifer Garcia, Kaitlin Wright, Amy Manzinas

Streets swarmed with red, picket signs in the air, and car horns throughout the city. A time of chaos, the strike for smaller classroom sizes, higher pay raise, protection against discriminatory charter schools and increase in guidance counselors and nurses lived on for six days awaiting a bargain with the district. Meanwhile students who attended school were packed into auditoriums and gyms viewing videos on growth mindset, a health-class basic. Switching shifts to work as Uber drivers in order to make a fraction of what they need to thrive, teachers chant, “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” In an attempt to maintain some sort of educational system with the strike, the school board hired 400 substitute teachers however, the district was looking at a pitiful student attendance rate and lesson plans were still being improvised. UTLA negotiators clashed with superintendent Austin Beutner who claimed that budget was strict and already at risk for the LAUSD teacher salaries to be raised, but UTLA suspected that a $2 billion reserve fund was hidden.

Chaos.

Strike days consisted of rain and democracy. 32,000 teachers, students, UTLA members and supporters marched downtown to city hall. With the support of parents, teachers were gifted food and water to hold up the tiresome days of striking. In doors, though sitting in chairs away from rain, students and administrators strongly felt the absence of the teachers. Subjected to repetitive lesson plans, students, particularly those in AP classes, ached for academic time.

Agreement Met… For the Most Part.

After the six-day strike, teachers, staff, and students returned to school on Wednesday, January 23rd. However, the interest amongst the agreement relied on the negotiation of both parties to move forward. In addition to the settlement, having 6% salary raises, investment in nurses, librarians, counselors and class reduction, Section 1.5 of the contract, designed to ignore the class size caps, was removed. Although salary was nowhere near the root of the problem, the superintendent agreed upon a 6% salary raise to be disbursed in amounts of 3% over the next two years. Many argue that teachers settled with a contract previously established and the strike should have lived on, but that is indeed false. Although it is ideal for public schools to hold regular sized classrooms, the expectation of losing 10 kids instantaneously was not realistic. Yet, teachers lost money and put themselves out there for their students and themselves. Regardless of any of the opinions and of the outcomes, there was awareness. Most don’t know how many students are held in a classroom expecting to be taught by a single individual. This strike was more than just standing in the rain expressing demands. It was an opportunity to enlighten issues the community wasn’t aware of. There might have not been much support before, but teachers now know we got their backs. Welcome back, teachers!

Passionate participant of the strike, Mr. Martinez, a Government and Economics teacher for both Honors and AP, gave us insight on the valuable teachers’ perspectives.

  1. Why did you strike? There are many important reasons that our Union leaders and union members put forth regarding our reasons to strike. By the time that we exhausted our efforts at mediation regarding our proposed contract, and striking became our final option, I had already prioritized my reasons. At the top of the list, were teacher health benefits. As it was proposed, future teachers would be hired with fewer benefits than I presently have. To me, this is unacceptable. I believe that future teachers should have the same, if not better, health benefits than I have. Past teachers in our union left me these health benefits that I now covet. The least I can do is safeguard them for the future teachers.
  2. How did you feel about those who didn’t strike? I feel sad for them, and disappointed. They missed the whole meaning of “Union”. I believe that “crossing the picket line” is a very selfish thing to do. When you cross the line, you do it for yourself. When you “walk the line” you do it for your colleague who needs health benefits for his family, for the teacher who needs smaller class sizes to more adequately teach, for the school that needs a full time teacher librarian and school nurse. For those teachers who chose not to strike, much respect has been lost for them. They won’t get that respect back for the remainder of their careers. At least not from me.
  3. How much did not getting paid for the week affect you? Not much. I felt bad to hear that many of my colleagues live paycheck to paycheck. That is a reality that I had not expected in our profession. That same week of our strike, the Federal government was shut down. In the news, we heard about many Federal employees needing to visit food banks and needing to take out small bank loans. Had our strike taken longer than the six days, I fear that some of my colleagues would have had to take a similar option. I am one of the lucky ones because I am frugal, single, and I have some savings. I don’t expect my colleagues to live the way that I do, but I do expect them to be paid like true professionals. Many of them are raising more than one child on a single teacher paycheck. That makes life hard. Seeing them out there, talking to them and learning of their struggles made me redouble my efforts on the line and more clearly defined our reasons for being out there.
  4. How do you feel about Superintendent Austin Beutner’s response to the teacher’s demands and the strike resulting in it? (Claiming there was no money, failing to compromise, being unable to answer questions, not attending negotiations in court) I realize that those on my side demonized Beutner-and it was well-deserved!- in an effort to drum up the base, to get people riled up and angry. This effort worked. His face was caricatured on many posters and his name was muddied and sullied on many raucous chants. To me, Beutner is just Beutner; a bored billionaire out to cause misery and turmoil with no endgame. He’s been pro charter for many years. The real culprits, the real “bad guys” are the ones who hired him with the intent of reorganizing our district: The School Board. There would be no Superintendent Beutner if the School Board had not hired him. I fault Beutner for nothing.
  5. How do you feel about how teachers were portrayed in the media? Public schools have been maligned in the media ever since I can remember. Yet, I became a high school teacher, and I truly believe that this is the absolute best job in the world! I am not on social media, and I don’t really watch local news. I care more about the parents who I speak to on Open House, Parent Conferences, and Back to School Nights. I care more about my students. Those are the opinions that matter to me. The media’s negative perception of our efforts, and the negative campaign waged upon our strike seemed to have backfired because we felt nothing but love and support from our community during those six days here in South Gate and, dare I say, it was the same scenario played out throughout Los Angeles.
  6. How did you feel about possibly interfering with supporters of charter schools and those opposed to the strike (i.e. the female LAUSD district employee at South Gate Middle)? During the strike, I felt nothing less than empowered. We were out there in numbers. There were members of the South Gate community who stopped by to ask questions and wanted to know our reasons for striking. Those folks had a feeling that what they saw in the news was distorted. They found out that it was. We won a lot of people to our side by just answering their questions.
  7. Finally, how did you feel about the outcome? Every teacher that I know has a different answer to this question. I can only speak for myself. We kept our benefits. That was at the top of my list. Everything else is a bonus to me!

Interviewed by Jennifer Garcia. Photographed by Elizabeth Padilla.

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While some students were easily swayed by popular opinion, one student remained firm before, during, and after the strike. Carlos Ramirez, current junior at South Gate High School, stood by his claim: “I strongly support the teacher strike because it is something that has been long called for. Teachers do a lot for us students, they provide a lot of their personal time which is time away from their families and it’s all without being rewarded.” Carlos was out supporting our teachers every day of the strike and was standing alongside them because he believes that the strike “is a sacrifice they made for us.” Recognizing the real motives behind the strike, Carlos contributed to their efforts and helped advocate for lower class sizes.
As an experienced AP student himself, Carlos explained his discontent: “Having class sizes as big as the district has, is unethical, especially in AP classes. These are supposed to be college level courses, but they should be more one-on-one because the teacher is teaching something that a professor usually would, yet aren’t paid more than regular teachers.” Despite being upset that 6 days of valuable instructional time were lost, he also admits, “I had the time to study on my own and also to get caught up with homework.” Interviewed and photographed by Jessica Ramirez.

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Finished

Constitutional Contentions

by Ashley Lopez

In 1868, the 14thAmendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified with the intent to grant newly freed slaves the rights other citizens in the United States had. Since then, the 14thAmendment has been the foundation to many landmark Supreme Court decisions such as the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Educationthat set the precedent that “separate was not equal” and the 1973 Roe vs. Wadecase that established women’s legal right to abortions.

Recently, the 14thAmendment has been referenced in response to Donald Trump’s Axios’s interview- released October 30th– that incited heated discussion after proclaiming his intent to deny citizenship from children born to parents that had entered the country illegally. The first section of the amendment begins, “All persons bornor naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Though changing the Constitution is possible with a Congressional act, Trump’s claim that he has the authority to infringe upon natural-born citizenship with an executive order is inaccurate. Republican colleagues of Trump, most notably Paul Ryan, have conceded to the head of state’s faulty reasoning. “I’m a believer in following the plain text of the Constitution and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear,” stated Ryan just hours after the interview’s release. Despite Trump assuring he had “legal scholar’s” backing, the president has failed to further elaborate as to when or how progress will be made regarding his goal. Then what is the purpose of such contentious assertions?

The midterm elections were just a week away when the interview first surfaced. The true impact of Trump’s claim on the election cannot be quantitatively determined. Regardless, his words were meant to reintroduce the topic of immigration and, once again, highlight his promise of “Making America Great Again”. The Democratic party had still hoped for a “blue wave” on November 6thand though they failed to gain more Senate seats, their victory came by way of a House of Representative majority.

The interview reignited the fear many felt when Trump was first elected into presidency. However, much of this fear is due to misinformation. In a poll consisting of 254 South Gate students, 76% of which claimed to be a child or grandchild of an immigrant, it was found that 198 (78%) believed themselves sufficiently familiar with the 14thAmendment. Another 165 of those same 254 students (65%) did not believe Trump could achieve his goal of stripping away citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. Even so, it is important to note that a majority of those who responded with these answers were seniors, who are required by California curriculum to take a government and economic social studies class.

 

A New Principle, A New Direction

by Jessica Ramirez

This 2018-2019 school year has kicked off with a new member in our Ram family, Principal Mr. Leo Gonzalez. Not only does he hope to provide “high quality teaching and high-quality instruction” that prepares everyone for college, he also seeks to provide motivation and support to every student. Mr. Gonzalez is a big believer in setting goals because that is the way he has been able to achieve his own dreams thus far. As a fellow member of the Latino community, Mr. Gonzalez can resonate with every student and hopes to inspire our generation.

Mr. Gonzalez is an example of what determination and hard work can accomplish. Coming from immigrant parents, he grew up in the neighboring city of Huntington Park and in fact, attended State St. Elementary School and South Gate Middle School prior to graduating from Bell High School. He took AP courses and participated in different sports during high school and understood the importance of being involved as an active member of school, which is what helped him get into UC Berkeley. However, despite seeking these challenges in high school, he confesses that he wasn’t fully prepared for college, which is something he wants every student to avoid feeling. By offering increasingly rigorous courses here, Mr. Gonzalez hopes to fully prepare everyone for the challenges of college life. He also plans on focusing on how teachers approach their curriculum and making sure everyone is on the same page, particularly through the newly implemented SOAR board, which recognizes the standard and objective being covered in class.

Another significant change he seeks to see in South Gate High School is an increased sense of school spirit by encouraging all students to become members of the school community, whether it is through leadership, sports, or clubs. He stands by the idea that “every student should have the opportunity to be in a club or be in a sports program” not only as part of the high school experience, but as a step towards becoming a more competitive college applicant.

Overall, Mr. Gonzalez established one clear idea: every decision he makes is for the benefit of the students. He is more than willing to provide support to any student in need of it and hopes that more students will set goals for themselves, as he believes that it is the true key to being successful.